Favorite Rides and Routes (San Francisco Bay Area to Sierra's)
Quality Local (San Francisco South Bay/Mid Peninsula) Bike Shops
The philosophy of human powered vehicles (HPV), a whole lot more out of life at 22.5 M.P.H
On nearly every ride I can't help but notice how people regard the bicycle a novelty, an impractical tool, a child's toy, a danger to the proper order of travel and a device of a much less sophisticated time or place. In considering the bicycle as a primary form of transportation one must certainly think out of the box. While I would not advocate the elimination of the automobile I do wish to raise the question its place in our lives and society. Perhaps we should all unseat this marvelous technological advancement in favor of a more elegant solution for our primary transportation needs, the bicycle.
I have commuted on bicycle, on mass transit and in the automobile for nearly 30 years as the Silicon Valley has grown tremendously. As early as I can remember we have had traffic jams, smog, noise, and poor community planning. All this is caused by this love affair we have with the boxes that we choose to isolate ourselves from each other and the environment we live in. So much of our communal, business, and national infrastructure is dedicated to the assumption that each citizen must spend a considerable amount of time inside their own personal space as they transport themselves to and from private, semi public and public spaces. So much of individual value is tied up and expressed in the model and kind of vehicle they drive.
So much emphasis is placed on the freedom of being able to travel whenever one wants. What is not frequently considered is the isolation caused by expansive freeways. The cost of the pollution of air, land water, and light and sound caused or necessary to sustain this technology are not considered. The true costs, the social, economic, geopolitical, and ecological costs are not correctly factored into the equation.
Riding outside of the box permits us to consider our own values. Believe me, you will see a lot more when you have taken your routine commute on the bicycle. You will feel more. You will become acutely aware of the temperature, sunlight, sound, and wind patterns. If you are fortunate to be able to incorporate more natural surroundings where you can watch the geese migrate, and the emergence of other fowl or ground squirrels at some seasons of the year. You will be more inclined to stop momentarily at different places, shops and stores, because perhaps you need to rest or because you could more clearly see what is on the outside of the vehicle, or because its a lot easier to get on to and off of the road.
Consider the ideal automobile: It has power everything. It can go zero to sixty in four seconds in comfort and travel above eighty miles per hour. It's temperature maintenance systems automatically defrost, cool and heat the cabin isolating the occupant from the outside. This vehicle contains communication, entertainment, and navigation equipment which sometimes minimizes the actual trip time but mostly allows the occupant to distract their attention. It requires minimal service and has a large fuel capacity for infrequent travel interruptions.
Consider the ideal HPV: It fits well with an individuals ergo dynamic needs. It responds efficiently with the riders energy. It positions the rider with maximum exposure and control in the environment while minimizing its air and rolling resistance. It stores well. It is well designed so that all maintenance is simple, infrequent and inexpensive.
The ideal automobile is perfect when its pouring rain, when you are feeling weak or sickly, or when you have a fancy affair to attend to, basically the exceptional circumstance. For the rest of life, to take time off of work or personal issues, to get your exercise in a regular and frequent way, to stop and smell the roses, to feel the seasons pass and the wind in your hair, bicycling is much more rewarding. Basically one can see a whole lot more of life at 22.5 mph
Favorite BicyclesI have a Marin Bolinas Ridge that I have used for commuting and off road riding. I was excited to get the quality simple rigid CrMo frame on a built up bike for around $300. I spent more in 1986 on a Peugeot Orient Express that desperately needed retiring by 2000. The only thing bad I would say about this bike is that the components turned out to be a little weak. I've broken the bottom bracket, a dozen spokes, and the shifters and chain rings don't look good either. After a better bottom bracket and wheel upgrade the bike is doing pretty well. If I had to do over again I would buy a model with better components in the $600 range.
Although I would readily admit that I have never had a high end standard road bike. I am a believer in the merits of the recumbent (bent) bicycle. Recumbents tend have a number of detractors mainly having to do with low quantity production and portability. Bents are difficult to carry, ship, take more room to store and more often than not will not fit in standard bicycle carriers. Because of the relatively low production amounts there are frequently rough spots in design and building. The price is relatively expensive with frame sets being in the $800-2500 range. Bent bikes, shops and expertise is relatively scarce. The wearing parts: the drive, chain and wheels are mostly standard with conventional bicycles. Finally, the recumbent much more than the standard bicycle needs to tailored to the individual's measurements.
On the plus side the ergo dynamics of the bent bicycle is far superior to the standard bicycle. A recumbent design is better on your back, arms, wrists and bottom (hence the affectionate term for the non recumbent bikes, 'wedgies'). Climbing can be a bit of a challenge for the recumbent rider, as it is not possible to stand up or change positions as much as the standard bikes. Downhill the recumbent shows off its superior aerodynamics. With regular descents I reach speeds in the mid 40 mph and I have descended for miles in the upper 50 mph range in the Sierra's.
The recumbent can be usually classified in two different designs. The short wheel base (SWB) model where your feet are ahead of the frequently smaller front wheel, and the long wheel base (LWB) where the bottom bracket is before the front wheel. The SWB are easier to carry, are and are more responsive hence better climbers. The LWB model is generally a better tracker and more stable at higher speeds. Its easier to design sock and rigid faring systems and attach touring gear to the LWB as well.
Here are some notes on my favorite designs, and my current road bicycle
The LWB Easyracer Gold Rush Replica ,
I wonder if I ever got the opportunity to tour on one of these if I would ever try a tour on a SWB model again. I would think that this would offer plenty of space for bags and gear.
Oh well I may never know. The trouble with recumbents is that there are just not enough of them around! For the present time I only tour extremely light anyways.
The SWB Lightning Cycle Dynamics, P38 .
I had one of these on order but got cold feet before it was built and canceled my order. In speaking with P38 owners, it sounds like a very good bike for the lighter rider (at 6'3" I weigh in about 230#). I understand Bachetta bikes are popular too, but they have the same mono tube design that I have in my Lightning Phantom. From personal experience if not mechanical engineering expertise I think that a proper rear fork design must have a triangle in it. I like what Rans has done with their F5, having had a chance to test ride it I am just waiting to buy one.
I have ridden this Lightning Cycle Dynamic Stealth/Phantom for 5 years putting about 20K miles on it. Its a stiff CRMO frame, perhaps its a little heavy, but with SRAM 9.0 components and triple ring it rides and climbs great.
I should say that I am riding on my third frame. While Lightning has been helpful with the replacements, I do not believe in the mono tube design. The frame forking in the rear causes too much stress for the welded joint. Right now I figure that I am cycling on borrowed time as I see hairline paint cracks near this critical joint. The beautiful SRAM 9 components, chain rings and chain are all on pretty warn as well so its really a race to what gives out completely first.
Quality Local (San Francisco, South Bay/Mid Peninsula) Bike ShopsPalo Alto and neighboring cities have a number of really good bicycle shops. The San Francisco Bay Area does not have a lot of recumbent or other HPV shops or resources. The closest resource is Zack Kaplin of Alameda.
Here are some of my favorite local 'weggie' shops. (A 'weggie' is an affectionate term that recumbent riders have to the traditional bikes.)
Palo Alto Bicycles Mainly higher end equipment. Good services. Have special ordered equipment that other stores would not order.
Mikes Bikes (formerly WheelSmith), Palo Alto, Mainly higher equipment. Good service
Walts Bicycles in Sunnyvale Not necessarily high end equipment, but a fair deal and I've had good luck with their staff.
The Bicycle Outfitter, Los Altos near Foothill Expressway, Road bikes and Tandems.
Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition